which is running Opportunity Houston. That’s largely because of the most
remarkable aspect of Houston’s effort:
its $40 million war chest, a huge
sum in economic development, which
is funding a gigantic marketing push
as well as an armory of unique high-tech tools. “This is not just a fy-by-night
marketing program,” says Craig Richard,
a senior vice president at the partnership, who co-led the courtship of Vestas.
“We’re an economic-development
program on steroids.”
Houston’s metro area added 53,000
jobs in the 12 months through August,
more than any other region in the
United States, save Dallas–Fort Worth.
High energy prices have meant record
profts for oil giants with major operations in Houston, including ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. But good
times have come and gone before.
“We had a blinding fash of the obvious
in the ’80s, when we had a one-horse
economy and saw that sector cool
off tremendously,” says partnership
president Jeff Moseley. Another concern
is the city’s population surge; an
immigrant arrives every nine minutes,
and 900,000 new residents have been
added in the past seven years.
Houston’s corporate mandarins
set a goal of creating 600,000 new jobs
by 2016. But the region was doing a
lackluster job selling itself. “Houston
had no brand,” says John Hofmeister,
an architect of Opportunity Houston
and former president of Shell Oil. Even
when companies took the initiative to
inquire about moving to Houston, the
partnership, with its shoestring budget,
had little capacity to reply helpfully.
Its leaders regularly declined invitations
to fy to make presentations, citing
a lack of funds. The city government
did little—it had only one full-time
So two years ago, Hofmeister joined
Moseley, Houston Astros owner Drayton
McLane, and marketer Gio Tomasini on
a fund-raising tour of executive suites.
They collected $30 million, a fund
initially directed toward building buzz
with a new marketing push and attending economic-development conferences.
In March, Richard was recruited from
the consultancy Hawes Hill Calderon
to help turn hype into deals.
Since last spring, the relocation pipeline has ballooned from fewer than 500
corporate candidates to well over 1, 100.
And during 2007, Opportunity Houston’s pilot year, the partnership tallied
$500 million in new capital investment
and $15.2 billion in new foreign trade
directly related to its efforts.
The Vestas hunt showed how the
partnership has put its new war chest to
work. Vestas already had more wind-power capacity installed in Texas than
in any other state. But turbines aren’t
people—and Houston was . . . Houston.
When Vestas execs expressed concerns
about the city’s quality of life, partnership leaders spent several thousand
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